Saturday, May 17, 2014

What's Up This Week: 19 - 23 2014





It's that time of year again when everything seems to be happening at once! As you will read in the post below, the students were involved in so many activities this past week that it made my head spin--another writing test, another reading assessment, book fair, practice for their Africa Day performance with Mr. Chandler and Mrs. Andersen, coming up with submissions for the Africa Day expression contest, developing a theme and costume ideas for the Africa Day fashion show, creating submissions for a calendar page contest through the US Embassy, videotaping by high school students for a video for Mr. Chandler, completing the graphic novel, and--oh yeah--school work too. I was so preoccupied with this flurry of activity that I forgot to take photos this week!

Of course this meant that our schedule has not been so normal for the past week, and some of my regular instruction has been delayed until this coming week. Next week we should return to (almost) a regular schedule again.


The students really worked hard this week to complete all of the 50 illustrations, and we also completed the text in English. A group of our native French speaking students began the arduous task of translating the English text into French. Next week we scan all of the illustrations and put them into the comic software program, then add the text in both English and French. 




This past week students did their second semester writing prompt. They received a prompt (hypothetical) explaining that AISB was considering cutting all after school activities for cost-cutting reasons, and asked them to write a letter to the school board explaining if they agree or disagree with this move. They had 45 minutes to plan and write this first draft of an essay. Our normal writing process would include time for feedback, editing, and revising). I scored these 20 essays along with Ms. Leavitt, middle school language arts teacher, using the 6-Traits Writing Rubric. I also scored the 20 middle school essays with her, so I think I am dreaming about essays!

This week students receive their scored essays as well as their first semester writing prompt so they can track their progress, and will bring these home for you to review.

I also administered the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to the students this week. This is a reading test that requires me to sit individually with each student as they read a passage from text in a small booklet they chose. As they read I marked down notes about their reading (e.g. did they have errors or pause where they shouldn't have, did they use expression, etc. I also timed their reading. Next they read the entire text silently and answered a several pages of comprehension questions. I score these, then take all of this data (number/type of errors in the read aloud, amount of time it took them to read, quality of their written answers) and use a formula that helps determine their reading level.

In the coming week I'll share these results by email. 


Last week we only read two chapters from our novel Missing May by Cynthia Rylant. This week we get back on schedule and read mot of the remaining chapters. We will also analyze a song (My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion), analyze a ballet (The Dying Swan), and learn about the steps in the grieving process. These activities connect with the novel's theme and help students have a better understanding of the plot.


How you can help with reading at home: 


  • Ask your child each day to summarize the chapters we read in class. Which characters do they like the best? Why?
  • Check your child's "Read to Succeed" each night/morning. For this daily assignment students read a book of their choosing for at least 20 minutes, then write a short summary of what they read. Their summary should clearly describe the main events in the part of their book they read without including too many unimportant details.
NOTE: Last week a few students did not do this daily assignment, and I noticed a number of students are quickly scribbling down a sentence or two. I expect better! If you can check this assignment each day for completion, I would be most appreciative!
  • Ask your child to read to you for a few minutes from their "Read to Succeed" book so you can check his/her fluency, expression, pauses, etc.


Grade 4: Last week Grade 4 students began a new chapter on fractions. They explored equivalent fractions and fractions in their simplest form. On Friday we began comparing and ordering fractions.

Next week students look at finding parts of a whole (e.g. 1/3 of 15), mixed numbers, and probability. They will also take a short quiz to check their understanding of these new concepts.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students began a new chapter on geometry. They explored triangles and quadrilaterals, measured angles, looked at congruent and similar figures, explored transformations (e.g. a change of position of a geometric figure, including translations, reflections, and rotations) and took a short quiz to check their comprehension.

Next week they explore symmetry, circles, tessellations, and take a quick quiz on these concepts.

How you can help with math at home:

Grade 4

  • Ask your child to explain how to draw 2 pizzas, one showing 1/2 of the pieces eaten, and the other showing 2/4 of the pieces eaten. Ash him/her to explain why 1/2 and 2/4 are called equivalent fractions.
  • Ask your child to show you the trick for determining which fraction is bigger, 2/3 or 3/8.
  • Encourage your child to work with fractions using an online game:

Game 1: Tony Fraction's Pizza Shop (hint: select the size of the pizza FIRST, then do the toppings):

Game 2: Fraction Flags:

Game 3: Fraction Fun (hint: the numerator is the number of YELLOW pieces):



Grade 5

  • Ask your child to explain how to solve the two-step equations we worked on this week, such as 3y + 6 = 15 (undo the addition by subtracting 6 from both sides, then undo the multiplication by diving both sides by 3).
  • Encourage your child to practice geometry with these online games:

Game 1: Two Dimension Concentration:




We were not able to devote much time to our literary essay writing last week, but this week we return to our normal daily essay writing schedule. This week students write their first draft of their literary essay, based on a lesson they've learned or a character they have admired in a book they read.


How you can help with writing at home: 


  • Ask your child to explain their experience with the writing prompt last week. Did they make a quick plan before they began to write? Did they use "juicy" words and figurative language? Did they include personal experiences? If they had to do it over again, what would they change? 
  • Is your child able to type quickly on the computer? If not, encourage he/she to practice with one of the keyboarding activities at:



This coming week we begin our final science unit. It's hot off the presses, and I call it "Space: The Final Frontier" (and for those of you who understand that reference, yes, we are going to watch an episode of the original Star Trek!)

Star trek

The "big idea" of this unit is that the solar system, as part of a vast universe, has scientific laws that impact Earth. We will explore components of the solar system, seasons/months/days/tides, theories on how it was formed, and the impact of space technology. 

I've written this unit to include many arts integrated elements. We will analyze several songs with themes that connect to our unit (Space Oddity by David Bowie, Saturn by Stevie Wonder, Planet Claire by the B52s). We will also explore the orchestral suite The Planets by Gustav Holst to see if students agree with the way Holst musically represented each planet.


We will also analyze a number of works of art including VanGogh's Starry Night Over the River Rhone and his Starry Night, as well as the art of painter/designer/illustrator Chelsey Bonestell whose amazing space illustrations of the 20s and 30s inspired human space travel.


We will also look at the art of Alexander Calder with a focus on his mobiles, many of them space-inspired.


Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1934




MAY 2014
Mon - Fri 19-23 May AISB Africa Week
Friday 23 May - Africa Week afternoon luncheon and assembly
Mon - Fri 26-30 May AISB Teacher Appreciation Week

JUNE 2014
Thursday 5 June - AISB High School Graduation
Friday 6 June - Last day of school

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